The thought of exercising in the winter months can leave many people feeling less than enthusiastic. The nights are shorter, the weather is more unpredictable and you have to dig that little bit deeper to find the motivation to keep fit. But, there is one solution to this problem that makes exercising fun and sociable, without the need for any experience – dance.
Influenced by shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, flocks of enthused dance novices are now taking to the floor of dance classes to try their hand at the revived styles of dance, including Latin, ballroom and even Bollywood. Having always been a lover of dance (my childhood heroes were the stars who waltzed, tapped and swung their way through Singing in the Rain and Top Hat) I always wanted to attempt a dance class. So when invited to join a group of friends trying a jive class at Guppy’s Enterprise Club in York, I jumped at the chance.
Nestled on Nunnery Lane, Guppy’s Enterprise Club is based in a converted inn and still feels every bit as homely and welcoming as it must have done in its former life. Making my way to the first floor, I am met by the humble decor of the dance hall and a warm smile from Neal Guppy, who runs the class. I am the last to arrive and nervously make my way over to a group of people, feeling very aware of my lack of dance experience.
As the class starts, I realise there was no need to worry. Our host is clearly experienced and knowledgable and, as he reveals during the course of the night, has been dancing the jive on and off for over 50 years. He starts the music and the sound of the old songs instantly transforms the space. We’re all ready to give it a go.
I volunteer for the introductory dance and am immediately grabbed by one of the regular dancers (it soon becomes apparent that the more you get stuck in, the better). In true beginner-style, we slowly walk through the first few steps – the arm jive, basket and first move – and get the feel of the rhythm of the music. Within minutes the room is a hive of activity as we all take to the floor.
It is explained to us that jive originally began as an expression of rebellion – it is made up of many moves but only simple sequences – and this laid-back style of dancing is the key to a true jive. Men have a relaxed stooped frame (young jive dancers originally craved something completely different to the formal ballroom style) and spin their partners with a casual flick of the hand. As we dance, I gradually stop thinking about what I am doing and let my partner take the lead. The steps fall into place and, following the turn of his hand or the way he leads me into a move, I find that I try steps that I have never tried before.
The class lasts two hours and I leave with a smile that reflects just how much I have enjoyed the class. The lilt and sway of the dancing stays with me and I hum the melodies the way home. Jive is the most uplifting and enjoyable form of exercise I have ever tried. I’m not sure what Bruno Tonioli would make of my flicks and kicks, but I have already planned to return again next week. Granted, I will never be the next Gene Kelly, but the way I see it, if you can do a whole evening of exercise and leave grinning from ear to ear, why would you not give it a go?
Guppy’s Enterprise Club run freestyle jive nights every Thursday evening from 8.30pm. Prices start from £3.30 for members and £4.10 for non-members.
Guppy’s Enterprise Club
17 Nunnery Lane York 01904 622879